Idiosyncratic Americans

Two unexpected encounters during the final day of canvassing.

Out in the "burbs" with about 40 students, my longest discussion was with a woman who for several decades was on the city Democratic committee and had never voted for a Republican. She worked for Hillary in the primaries, but was going to vote for McCain until Palin was picked and the economy started collapsing.

I wanted to know what motivated this. It wasn't sexism; she didn't seem to think that Hillary was particularly mistreated. It wasn't conservative ideological leanings; she's an old-fashioned labour liberal, who still bemoans the US Steel plant closing and the couple next door that doesn't own cars from Detroit. But she was leaning toward McCain until Palin. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

I then asked her if she had any concerns about Obama. "Well, they'd riot if he loses." "Who's they?" I asked. "The blacks. See, you're young. You don't remember when they were burning the cities down. They almost destroyed Philly, and if he loses they'll do it again." So why was she still leaning toward Obama? "The economy, of course. That Palin woman. But mostly, I realise that if he wins, they won't riot at all."

Whatever happened to optimism?

Later, I knocked on a door in Philadelphia and when a man opened it the first thing I saw was his hand, tattooed with a swastika and a skull on the back. I was bracing for a short and ugly conversation, and, to be perfectly honest, I was scared. But he saw the Obama button and his face just lit up as he told me how great it was that I was out there, how much America needed a change after eight years of Republican rule and that he would be on his way to vote soon.

This definitely makes up for the kid who screamed at me calling me a traitor to my face.

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“Why are you here?”: Juncker and MEPs mock Nigel Farage at the European Parliament

Returning to the scene of the crime.

In today's European Parliament session, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, tried his best to keep things cordial during a debate on Brexit. He asked MEPs to "respect British democracy and the way it voiced its view".

Unfortunately, Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and MEP, felt it necessary to voice his view a little more by applauding - the last straw even for Juncker, who turned and spat: "That's the last time you are applauding here." 

MEPs laughed and clapped, and he continued: "I am surprised you are here. You are fighting for the exit. The British people voted in f avour of the exit. Why are you here?"  

Watch the exchange here:

Farage responded with an impromptu speech, in which he pointed out that MEPs laughed when he first planned to campaign for Britain to leave the EU: "Well, you're not laughing now". Hee said the EU was in "denial" and that its project had "failed".

MPs booed again.

He continued:

"Because what the little people did, what the ordinary people did – what the people who’d been oppressed over the last few years who’d seen their living standards go down did – was they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said actually, we want our country back, we want our fishing waters back, we want our borders back. 

"We want to be an independent, self-governing, normal nation. That is what we have done and that is what must happen. In doing so we now offer a beacon of hope to democrats across the rest of the European continent. I’ll make one prediction this morning: the United Kingdom will not be the last member state to leave the European Union."

The Independent has a full transcript of the speech.

Now, it sounds like Farage had something prepared – so it's no wonder he turned up in Brussels for this important task today, while Brexiteers in Britain frantically try to put together a plan for leaving the EU.

But your mole has to wonder if perhaps, in the face of a falling British pound and a party whose major source of income is MEP salaries and expenses, Farage is less willing to give up his cushy European job than he might like us to think. 

I'm a mole, innit.